There are lot of cool companies happening in the Boston Area, but I was stunned by the technology that I saw on display at a visit to Witricity in Watertown on Friday.
Witricity has solved the problem of safely and efficiently projecting thousands of watts of electric power through the air over moderate distances.
Imagine a toolbox or toybox that charged the batteries of whatever you dumped into it. Or a desktop that charged your cell phone and everything else you dumped on top of it. Imagine pulling an electric car into a parking space and starting to charge batteries without any connections. Imagine appliances not tethered to the wall by cords. Imagine bomb-sniffing robots that soldiers can keep charged without leaving the safety of their armored vehicles. These are just some of simplest and most immediately accessible applications that will be widely available in just a few years.
Demo models are on display in Watertown. The company is licensing technology to a host of major manufacturers across the globe. So, much of the manufacturing may ultimately be done elsewhere, but they do manufacture development and testing kits in Watertown and in partnership with other local manufacturers.
The company likes being located in Massachusetts. CEO Eric Giler, a Back Bay resident, talks about the strength of the energy industry creative ecology in Massachusetts.
One thing Mr. Giler feels could be improved in the business climate in Massachusetts is the overuse of non-competition agreements. That’s an area that I have been working on for a few years. Support has been building for action on this issue and I am increasingly hopeful that we will see further legislative progress in this session.
The stunning advance is an example of the benefits of investment in basic research — the technology grows out of the work of Marin Soljacic, a Belmont resident, MacArthur fellow and Professor Physics at MIT. He developed his breakthrough idea while doing research supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy and the Army.
I missed seeing this tidbit until today. It is certainly cool. After looking at the Witricity web site, some questions came to mind which I’ll share (not that I expect Will to answer them, but some alert reader might).
1. What do they mean by “large distances”? As energy dissipates as the square of distance, I imagine that the induced current would get quite weak beyond several feet.
2. How strong a magnetic field does the transmitter create? Could it erase bits in a storage medium or cause certain devices to malfunction?
3. How efficient is this setup? Even if the transmitter only turns on when a receiving device comes within its range, it is radiating plenty of energy that will not get picked up (unless the antenna broadcasts a narrow beam, but I don’t think magnetic fields work that way). It seems to me that charging a battery from an outlet would squander much less power, and may well be faster.
They connect over a few feet, like 2 or 3. I understand that is a very tiny field, less than the earth’s magnetic field. The transmission works on a resonance idea — the field is small, but the receivers are tuned to resonate with it. The power transmission efficiency is over 90% — not much worse than wall plugs which are also often materially under 100%.
It’s an impressive technology. Their website should provide more detail.
See this update in the Globe: Demo kits available.
Comments are closed.